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Is Design Thinking Innovation?

Updated: Oct 6, 2021


Innovation refers to the introduction of something new or to make a change to an existing idea, process, product, or field (Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2020). When innovation is a change or an improvement to an existing idea, process, or product, this is typically incremental innovation. Most innovation is incremental.

Disruptive innovation disrupts and changes the way the market operates. This is what happened when Airbnb entered the accommodation and experiences markets, and Uber entered the taxi market. Whether innovation is incremental or disruptive, in many cases innovation is a catalyst for economic and business growth. We see both businesses and markets grow from innovations and incumbent responses to innovations.

Innovation helps businesses adapt with change, either in front the curve or by staying abreast of the wave of change. Innovation is important for the advancement and betterment of society. A fundamental element of innovation is improvement. Through innovations we see increases in the standards of living, decreases in human diseases, increases in offerings that improve the lives of people. Innovation helps businesses achieve their growth goals in many ways. Innovation means business are looking to bring new solutions to market or iterative changes that improve the lives of people and markets. Sometimes business innovations are internally focused on improving systems and processes, simplifying processes, or increasing revenue streams. Sometimes innovations are about improving productivity, decreasing costs, improving employee wellness programs or improvements with how teams connect and work together.


Because becoming good at innovation requires purposeful effort and energy and a culture that embraces change, many business leaders and growth champions are looking for ways in which their enterprises can routinely innovate. Design thinking is a mindset, a process and a box of tools that helps leaders to improve creativity, question the status quo, look for different ways of doing things, and over time assist their teams with routinely innovating.

The 4D Design Thinking Framework that Leadingrowth teaches helps leaders with mindset, tools, and the process of using design thinking in their workplace, and to improve innovative capabilities of their teams. Often people ask is design thinking innovation. Understanding the design thinking mindset and embracing the design thinking mindset as a catalyst for creativity and innovation means that anyone can improve their capacity for creativity and innovation. At the forefront of design thinking is a mindset that focuses on human betterment. As design thinking leaders’ capabilities grow, they become better at embracing the unknown, improve their willingness to learn, aren’t afraid of complex problems and they purposely seek diversity as they understand that multiple viewpoints are a pathway to innovative solutions.


Design thinking asks of leaders and their teams to work on things that matter to customers, investors, clients, and other stakeholders and to create human innovations for humans. After all, with design thinking humans are at the center of all incremental and disruptive innovations.

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